.:Chapter 2- Return to the Shrine:.

The familiar surroundings of Atlantis faded and warped as the Vortex carried him to one of the alternate worlds that he had created when he returned the Gifts. Suddenly, the Vortex ended and he found himself falling through the air towards the water a good forty feet below him. He screamed and closed his eyes as he plummeted towards the still water. The impact stunned him as he smacked into the water at unsafe speed. The water slowed him, but his body was stunned and he started to sink, eyes still closed.

Suddenly, he felt himself pushed up to the surface from below. His blowhole broke the surface, and he gasped in the air, trying to quell his body's thirst for oxygen. After several minutes of deep breaths, his lungs returned to normal and the numbness his body had received from the fall faded and disappeared.

"Well, I didn't think I'd see you here at high-moon, Ecco…" a smooth, gentle voice greeted his ears. Instantly, he recognized the voice and his eyes flashed open. A strange weight around him confirmed his theory. He looked down at his body, and recognized the unmistakable form of the Labor Harness.

"Well… I didn't expect to be here really…" Ecco said and turned to face his dolphin savior. He was greeted by the sight of Prime Mover, her dark eyes calm as the sea that surrounded them. Her smooth ivory, tan and red skin shone in the pale green liquid, like a grouping of gems in the foul water.

"You know, you really should give us a little warning before you drop from the above like a sky pearl, but we were expecting your arrival." Prime said softly, smiling slightly.

"You were?" Ecco asked, cocking his head slightly.

"Well… ever since the marks appeared, we figured something was up." Prime answered.

"Marks? Some of you formed marks?" Ecco inquired, wondering if some of the human-broken dolphins had been marked by the Guardian.

"Yes… some of us, including me, did form marks, and it panicked many of us into falsely believing the humans had cast some enchantment. Some of the dolphins believed that nonsense, and tried to make us give control of the pod to the marked. Unfortunately, timid Crimson and Pilot were overcome by this, and vanished. I've been so worried, and even though I trust Crimson, I fear something may have happened to them…" Prime said sadly, closing her eyes at the mention of her son's disappearance.

"Other dolphins? I thought that only the sentinels lived in the Shrine?" Ecco asked, confused on what Prime meant.

"Well, that's how it used to be, until you returned the two Gifts. The other surviving dolphins from around the world, from all the different sects, came to the Shrine and the Temple of Firewater. Dozens of Movers and Circles, and sects that we have never known before appeared to celebrate the destruction of the Engine of Death. You are the equivalent of a God, Ecco; dolphins sign your praises at every rising sun, along with the Hymn of Unity. It was a joyous time, until a few weeks ago…" Prime trailed off, turning away slightly.

"What happened?" Ecco asked Prime, worried about the friends he had made.

"The marks appeared, and some of the new dolphins, whom haven't known of the treachery of Man, thought it was some sort of human enchantment and that the marked were the Chosen of Man. They tried to make us take control of the Shrine, away from the Painted One. They chased the Painted One away outside the Big Glass, and everything has deteriorated into chaos. Crimson and Pilot disappeared soon after, and now they are after me. I have been hiding in the cave where you and I first met. I came out here to pray to the Moon, the bender of the waters." Prime said, looking up through the pale water at the bright moon.

"I'm glad you were out here, otherwise I might have drowned…" Ecco said quietly, "The Painted One? Who is the Painted One?"

"The Painted One is the leader of all dolphins, the wisest of us all. His body is painted, the last of his sect, like Crimson. The Painted Dolphins were pets to the humans, a sign of status and power if a human owned one. They lived a life of leisure and luxury, and many disappeared shortly after the humans did. He is the only one left that we know of, and unlike the other Painted, he is kind and wise, but very humble and shy. During his rule, he spent most of his time in the Shrine or in the Temple of Firewater. We need to find him and put him back in power, for everything has fallen apart without his guidance." Prime informed him, pointing to the Shrine and out past the Big Glass.

"Yes… and he may know the whereabouts of the other Starred Ones…" Ecco said quietly, following Prime's gaze out into the pale green water past the Big Glass.

"If feel that if anyone knows the location of the Starred Ones, the Painted One will." Prime said, nodding slightly.

"By the way, is Circle still here?" Ecco asked, turning towards the direction of the Circle's shrine, "He might be able to help us…"

"Yes, he is still here." Prime answered, "He and the sentinel of the Mover Shrine were the only original dolphins here that were not marked."

"Let's pay him a visit… who knows, maybe that chatty little dolphin may know something about where Crimson, Pilot and the Painted One are…" Ecco said hopefully, starting towards the Circle's Shrine.

Unknown to them, from below, they were being watched…

.:End of Chapter 2:.

AN- Well, what do ya think? My long-awaited chapter 2! Sorry if it's short, but I'm in emotional turmoil right now. A friend of mine, my friend's dog Curley, was struck and killed by a dog on my vacation, and my house-sitter's child got into my room and broke my Gravity Ptera Zoid into pieces. (sigh) I'm just a mess right now. Anyway, again I'm sorry for the shortness, but I have a lot of other projects I'm working on. Btw, I'm writing a tribute fic to my friend, and if you want to read it, click on my profile and go down to the bottom and click on the fic titled Guardian in Wolf's Clothing. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this. I'll try to update soon, but I'm really busy with my Zoids fics. Please leave a nice, constructive review!! As always, all flamers will be fed to Leiden and Geier!! Lol. If you value your life, don't flame!! I will reply to anonymous reviewers in my profile!! Alright guys, please leave a nice review.

Ibeyla :P